CLEARWATER — An impressive group of runners lined up at the start of Thursday's 10-kilometer Turkey Trot (a 6.2-mile course).
Scott Mackley, however, made sure it wasn't much of a race.
At the sound of the gun, Mackley broke for the lead with only a handful of runners beside him. They did not have his company for long.
By the time he passed the second mile, Mackley had made his move and was well ahead of the field.
The Florida Southern cross country runner won in 31 minutes, 37 seconds. The closest of the distant others, Nathan Holden, trailed Mackley by 46 seconds. Lee Stephens was third, 54 seconds back.
"I wanted to make a move quickly and drop the other runners," Mackley said. "It just helps free up your mind, and you can start concentrating on your splits."
Initially, Mackley considered running in the 5K Wingding (a 3.1-mile course). But he decided against it because his college teammate Tyrone Bell would be in that race.
"I thought this would give us a chance to both win," Mackley said.
Turns out he was right.
Bell dominated the 5K, winning for the second straight year, this time in 15:06.
"I really didn't know how well I'd do this year because I was not feeling well," Bell said. "I wanted to surge after the first mile. That was my strategy. I wanted everyone to know I still meant business."
In the women's 5K, Jacki Wachtel won for the second straight year; her time was 17:38.
Former Keswick Christian and USF standout Christa Benton blew past the field in the women's 10K, winning her fourth straight title in 36:27, more than two minutes ahead of her closest competitor, Wachtel (38:46).
"It's always easy for me to go out fast," Benton said. "It was perfect race weather. I'm just thankful we all have healthy bodies and go out and run in a race like this."
There were 14,910 runners who bundled up and hustled out on a chilly morning to participate in the 30th annual Times Turkey Trot. That number was down from the record 16,506 who registered last year, race director Skip Rogers said.
"The turnout was about what we expected," Rogers said. "It was hard to ask for anything more, especially in this economy."
Bob Putnam can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4169.